Game rules

One of the differences between Lawn Tennis and Real Tennis is in the scoring system. They both record scores in the same increments and both sports require six game wins to win a set. However, Real Tennis games don't include the two-game buffer rule that Lawn Tennis has.

The Real Tennis court - click to enlarge

The rules of Real Tennis

  1. Scoring is as in lawn tennis. To win a game a player needs to win four points and, usually (but not if playing off a handicap adjustment), to be at least two points ahead of his opponent. The first player to win six games wins the set (usually – but sometimes sets are played as first to 8 or 9 games) but it is not necessary to be ahead by two games; the eleventh game is decisive (or the 15th or 17th).
  2. It is the score of the player who won the last point that is called first. (This is different to lawn tennis).
  3. Service is only from one end of the court.
  4. For the service to be correct: The ball must touch the half of the side penthouse at the receiver’s end; the ball may also touch the side penthouse at the server’s end and/or the side wall. The first bounce of the ball must be on or beyond the service line at the hazard end (the receiver’s end). The server must stand further from the net than the second gallery line. The ball must go over the net but it can first strike the wall or the side penthouse at the striker’s end.
  5. The ball is out if it strikes the side walls above the marked limits or hits one of the rafters or lights.
  6. A ball entering the dedans, the grille, or the winning gallery wins a stroke for the striker.
  7. A ball entering any other opening at the end opposite the striker, or bouncing twice on the floor at the end opposite the striker, records a chase at the mid-point of the opening or at the point of the second bounce, as appropriate. There is no change to the score. If the score is within one point of game or if two chases have been laid, the players change ends (and service) and the chases are played in the order in which they occurred. The player who has not laid the chase has to win the chase by ensuring that the second bounce of his or her return is nearer the back wall than the chase being played.
  8. The gallery posts are considered to be part of the gallery nearer the net.
  9. The stone sides of the openings are not considered to be part of the opening.
  10. Hitting the net post loses the stroke.


Today, play is regulated by a complex handicapping system which enables each player to begin the game with an equal chance of success.

Better players may start the game with negative points, be disallowed service errors – or even restricted from using certain court features.